You know their names. You've seen them on TV and
the movies, and you've read about them in the
gossip columns. They're our Hollywood
celebrities. Famous folk who are idolized by
millions and, of whom, we dream of being like,
one day. But long before these "celebrities"
were big and famous, they were just like you and
me...dog paddling in the same pool of mediocrity
that most of us still swim in today.
It was during those more innocent times that our
pre-celebrities were treated like simple
mortals. And just like the rest of us, they were
victims to the harsh social realities that come
with childhood and growing up like bullies, peer
pressure and yes, the dreaded "nickname." The
nickname that generally emphasized one or more
of their shortcomings, or physical attributes.
And wherever they went, whether it was on the
playground, at a jobsite or home, the nickname
was always there to label them, to brand them
part of the "nerd" herd.
But luckily, spring turns into summer, time
passes, and one day our PRE-lebrities grew up
and became CE-lebrities. However, lurking within
celebrity-hood, there are always old school
chums or family members with loose lips who want
to expose that long-lost "nickname" to waiting
reporters eager to write another story. With
this in mind, let's take a look at some of
Hollywood's popular celebrities and see what
nicknames they bore before traveling the bumpy
road to stardom.
Bucky Beaver -
childhood nickname of actress Jenna Elfman who starred
as Dharma Freedom Finkelstein Montgomery, the
free-spirited daughter of hippies on the sitcom DHARMA &
GREG/ABC/1997-2002. While growing up in Los Angeles, the
kids at Jenna's school gave her the nickname "Bucky
Beaver" because of her overbite. But after three and a
half years of orthodontia, Jenna [born Jennifer Mary
Batula] now has a wonderful smile and a winning career
as an actress. Jenna's earlier 1996 TV series was called
TOWNIES where she played Shannon Canotis, one of three
female friends who lived in an East Coast fishing
community and who hoped one day to move to the big city.
Chinzo - During an
interview segment of THE TONIGHT SHOW (3/31/98) the
jut-jawed Jay Leno revealed that in school the kids
nicknamed him "Chinzo." His guest Denise Richards (Wild
Things, 1998) then informed Jay that she was called
"Fishlips" in high school. Jay has poked fun of his own
chin and even created a dim-witted physical fitness Guru
with a huge chin called "Iron Jay." While Jay's chin may
be prominent, his blue eyes are simply "beautiful" (at
least that's what many female celebrities have said
while on his show).
Great Wounder, The
- Dennis Farina, who played Lt. Mike Torello
on the police drama CRIME STORY/NBC/1986-88 was
nicknamed "The Great Wounder" by his fellow police
officers when he worked for the police department in the
days before he took up acting as a career. During his
eighteen years on the Chicago police force, every time
he "pulled out his gun to shoot someone, he'd shoot them
in the butt or the thumb" (TV Guide 2/6/88).
Farina was born in the Italian section of Chicago. He
left law enforcement in 1985 to pursue acting full-time.
He was introduced to acting when his former supervisor,
who had left the Chicago police to pursue a career in
writing, got him a small role in the movie Thief
(1981). He later was cast as an FBI agent in the Michael
Mann film Manhunter (1986). Farina was fully
self-taught actor. He later returned to TV in the fall
of 1998 on the CBS series BUDDY FARO, as a 1960s gumshoe
come out of retirement. See also - "Johnny Pizza"
Gunner - Personal
nickname of actor Tom Arnold who starred on the
sort-lived sitcoms THE JACKIE THOMAS SHOW/ABC/1992-93
and TOM/CBS/1994 and as loser Arnie Merchant during the
1989-1994 seasons on the sitcom ROSEANNE/ABC/1988-99.
Tom earned his moniker when he worked at a meat packing
plant in Ottumwa, Iowa. One of the jobs at the plant
required that the arriving hogs be killed and hung up to
drain out their blood. Tom's method of killing the hogs
was a gun to the back of the head. Once he was in a rush
to go to lunch so he killed eight hogs and left them on
the floor without draining the blood out of them.
Unfortunately, the Federal inspectors came by and
condemned the meat. Tom, of course got in trouble for
Joey Pants - The
childhood nickname of actor Joe Pantoliano. Born on
September 12, 1951, Joey spent an impoverished childhood
in Hoboken, New Jersey where he picked up his "Joey
Pants" moniker. Admittedly, this isn't to degrading a
nickname but taken in the context of the Cosa Nostra,
it's a great mob moniker. Today, Joey smokes fine
cigars and enjoys the notoriety he's gained after roles
in 60 movies and guest shots on the WB's ROSWELL as Kal
Langley and on HBO's THE SOPRANOS as mafia mobster
Johnny Pizza -
Real-life nickname of actor John Santucci who played
Pauli Taglia, the dim-witted but brutal mobster on the
crime drama CRIME STORY/NBC/1986-88. Born in Chicago,
Santucci got involved in criminal activities at a young
age. His street names were Johnny Pizza and Babe. He was
eventually caught by the FBI for jewelry theft and
sentenced to prison at La Tuna Federal Correctional
Institution in Texas. Luckily, his 45-year sentence was
reduced to three years (due to a technicality) and
Santucci, now a changed man, went straight. Chuck
Adamson, a former Chicago cop turned writer (he had
arrested Santucci in the past) hired him as a technical
consultant on a movie project and his later role on
Mahavishnu - High
school nickname of Kevin Eubanks, the bandleader on THE
TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO/NBC/1992+. According to his
10th grade teacher Ms. Lynn Dixon (who made a surprise
visit to the show) when Kevin Eubanks was in high school
he wore a skull cap and called himself "Mahavishnu." Ms.
Dixon said of him "He was very quiet, (with a
Buddha-like presence), he never smiled and he always
told the truth."
Packy - Real-life
family nickname of actress Sally Struthers who played
Gloria, the scatterbrained daughter of the working class
bigot Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor) on the sitcom ALL
IN THE FAMILY/CBS/1971-83 and GLORIA/CBS/1982-83. When
Sally was a child she was very chubby. Her sister
decided to call her "Packy"...short for "pachyderm."
Shannon - Personal
nickname of actress Sharon Lawrence who played attorney
Sylvia Costas-Sipowicz on the police drama N.Y.P.D.
BLUE/ABC/1993+ and public relations firm employee Gwen
Leonard on the sitcom FIRED UP/NBC/1997-98. Lawrence
(born in Charlotte, North Carolina in June 29, 1961)
reported that when she was little, she talked like
journalist Barbara Walters and called herself Shannon
Wawence. The Shannon nickname stuck.
Squidhead - Dave
Thomas, comedy veteran of SCTV NETWORK 90/NBC/1981-83
and THE DAVE THOMAS COMEDY SHOW/CBS/1990 was called "Squidhead"
by his childhood schoolmates because he happened to have
a head (7 3/4 XL) disproportionate to his body. As he
said on the 6/18/90 segment of THE ARSENIO HALL SHOW his
body was just a convenient vehicle for taking his head
from place to place.
Unco - The childhood
nickname of Australian born actress Lucy Lawless,
apparently because she was a "uncoordinated" [a klutz]
as a kid. In her later years, however, Lawless put any
rumors of her ability to move effectively aside when she
starred as an athletically agile, mighty warrior and
healer on the action adventure series XENA: WARRIOR
became famous, these Celebrities earned their own
Booty - The personal
nickname of actress Holly Robinson Peete given to her by
husband Rodney Peete. When asked "What does the name
mean?" Holly just says "I don't want to expand on
it."Holly's nickname was revealed on a 1997 Valentine's
Day "Girlfriends" segment of the syndicated talk show
THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW/SYN/1986+. Holly Robinson Peete
was the co-star of the police drama 21 JUMP STREET/FOX/SYN/1987-91
and the sitcom HANGIN' WITH MR. COOPER/ABC/1992-97.
Holly and her singer girlfriend Terry Ellis (from the
female singing group En Vogue) nicknamed each other
Stupid and Dumb. "I'm Stupid. She's Dumb. She's Stupid.
I'm Dumb," they laughingly interjected.
Conan - The personal
nickname of celebrity Alyssa Milano. Alyssa is also
called Lyssa and Lyss. Born December 19, 1972 in
Brooklyn New York, the 5' 2" brown-haired Sagittarian
has starred in a number of successful venues. They
included the starring role in the Broadway play Annie at
age eight; the perky Samantha "Sam" Micelli on the
sitcom WHO'S THE BOSS/ABC/1984-92 and a lusciously
desirable witch named Phoebe Halliwell on the fantasy
series CHARMED/WB/1998-2006. Alyssa is not only a talented
actress but a singer. She had five platinum albums
released in Japan. They were titled: Alyssa, Look In
My Heart, Best in the world, Locked In a Dream, and
Do You See Me? In addition, a picture of Alyssa
was used as inspiration to create the underwater heroine
"Ariel" in the classic 1989 Disney movie The Little
Mermaid. Besides collecting kudos for her acting and
singing career, Alyssa has collected a number of tattoos
on her body.
Monster - Personal
nickname of actress Tea Leoni (real name Tea Pantleoni)
given to her by her non-showbiz friends. The slender
blond actress is also called "T-bone." Tea Leoni starred
on the sitcoms FLYING BLIND/FOX/1992-93 and THE NAKED
TRUTH/ABC/NBC/1995-97. She is now married to actor David
Duchovny of THE X-FILES.
Negro - The personal
nickname of celebrity Oprah Winfrey revealed on a 1997
Valentine's Day segment entitled "Girlfriends" on her
syndicated talk show THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW/SYN/1986+.
It seems that both Oprah Winfrey and her best friend
Gayle King had nicknames for each other. Oprah was
called Negro and Gayle was called Blackie. Both women
first met years ago when Gayle stayed overnight with
Oprah during a snow storm. Since then they have become
close friends. Oprah jokingly reported rumors that Gayle
was the reason she was avoiding marrying Steadman
(Oprah's beau); and Gayle quipped that Oprah was the
reason she got divorced. Their friendship was earlier
featured on an April, 1989 special "Just Between
Reenie - Irene Ryan
who played Daisy Moses (a.k.a. "Granny Clampett") on the
sitcom THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES/CBS/1962-71 was
affectionately called Reenie by her close friends. The
slender actress Nancy Kulp who appeared as Miss Jane
Hathaway on the sitcom THE BEVERLY
HILLBILLIES/CBS/1962-71 was nicknamed "Slim" by fellow
actor Raymond Bailey who played the Milburn Drysdale,
Swamp Thing - Actress
Faith Ford, who costarred on the sitcom MURPHY
BROWN/CBS/1988-96 was nicknamed "Swamp Thing" by her
cast members because she always told childhood stories
about hunting the swamps and bayous with her father.
Faith left her home of Pineville, Louisiana to try
modeling in New York City. Her acting credits included
the NBC soap opera ANOTHER WORLD; ABC's THIRTYSOMETHING;
and finally CBS's MURPHY BROWN.
Three Hookers, The -
Tongue-in-check moniker given to the female cast of the
sitcom THE PETTICOAT JUNCTION/CBS/1963-70. During the
quiet time in between shooting schedules, three of the
female cast Linda Henning (Betty Jo), Meredith MacRae
(Billy Jo) and Lori Sanders (Bobby Jo) routinely circled
up in a nice cozy corner of the set and hooked rugs to
pass the time, hence their dubious nickname.
Wizard, The - Wayne
Rogers (real name: William Wayne Mcmillan Rogers III),
the former star of the military comedy
M*A*S*H/CBS/1972-83 who played Capt. John McIntyre
(a.k.a. "Trapper John"), is known in real-life to his
friends as "The Wizard" because of his shrewd business
sense and his ability to make money.
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